Two girls in boy-leg bikinis burst side by side from the milk-bar. Clutching icy bottles of soda pop, they run recklessly across the road towards the music. The wind has tousled their carefully styled hairdos from that morning, and their faces are glowing from exertion. One goal in mind, thirst now quenched, they long to be back in the ‘Snake Pit’.
Ira had been coming to Scarborough beach for many years. It had always been her escape. But it was only this year that a small beach side cafe had transformed her ‘quiet place’ into the most popular hang-out in Perth. All thanks to a jukebox playing singles imported from America. Ira had been hooked from the start. And her best friend, Mary, was quick to follow.
Throwing themselves through the still gathering crowds, the girls hit the dance floor, screeching with excitement. They reached the centre of the dance floor just in time to hear the end of their song, fusing with the throng of wild, wriggling bodies, and jiving and rocking to the rhythm. Eyes closed, minds open, there wasn’t a single place on Earth they’d rather be. And they knew these were the days they would always remember.
“He’s watching you again,” said Mary, a smirk upon her face.
“Oh, don’t tell me that,’ replied Ira. She was immediately clumsy, her mind becoming conscious of her body, the beat of the song now out of time with the pulse in her chest. As she sensed amused eyes on her face, her face reddened against her white hair-band. ‘Can we take a break?”
Mary rolled her eyes. “Oh no, not again! We haven’t heard the Comets yet.”
“We’ll come back. I need some air. Please?”
Ira didn’t wait for an answer, leading the way through the crowd and stumbling over her own feet as she jumped up from the concrete terraced floor onto the encircling red brick wall. She pushed her way madly towards the open, a teasing male voice calling after her.
“Hey baby. Don’t be a drag. There’s nothing to watch now you’re gone.”
“I’m sure you won’t be lonely, Daddy-O.” Mary was quick to reply.
Ira shrank into herself. “Mary! Please don’t encourage him.” But she couldn’t resist a quick backwards look at her admirer. Today he was wearing a white shirt with cut away collars, a black slim jim tie and black stove pipe pants. His dark hair was styled into a peak at the front, his expression curious, his smile crooked. He took her breath clean away.
Mary giggled and the girls broke free of the mob. They headed for the beach, rolling surf rushing up to meet them as they collapsed onto the bright white sand. Laughing, sinking, then rolling on their backs, the sky was as blue as a postcard.
“You’ve got to stay cool with cats like that.” Mary lay back, her arms and legs out-stretched. “You can’t let them think they’ve got to you.” Grains of sands fell from her tanned stomach as she wriggled her toes contentedly. Mary wore the new bikini fad well. Ira felt self conscious.
“We shouldn’t be talking to him at all. If my father knew he’d kill me.”
“Oh, forget your father! What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Anyway, don’t be such a square! You love the attention and you love the thrill. Don’t pretend that you don’t.”
Mary was dangerously close to the mark. Ira loved the freedom that dancing gave her, the way she could move, exactly as she pleased, her body belonging solely and only to her. And she loved it when people noticed.
But she was sick of Mary being right.
“I get quite enough attention from my fiancé, thank you, Mary.”
“Oh, that’s right. I forgot you were in love.’ The sarcasm in Mary’s voice was sharp. ‘Well, you best run along then, hadn’t you. I wouldn’t want to keep you from the rest of your perfect life.”
“Why can’t you just be happy for me?”
‘Because I know you, Ira. I know what you need to be happy. And Arthur is not it. He’s not a shining knight sent to protect you from your father, you know. He’s a fake. And you’ll regret it.’